Chacoan Horned Frog
Cranwell's Horned Frog
Ornate Pac-man Frog
Ornate Horned Frog
Argentine Horned Frog
Bell's Horned Frog
Ceratophrys cranwelli x Ceratophrys ornata
Fantasy Pac-man Frog
Fantasy Horned Frog
Suriname Horned Frog
Amazonian Horned Frog
Pac-man frogs, so-called due to the fact that they seem to be little more than a mouth attached to a remorseless eating machine, are a long-standing favorite in the pet industry. Their other common name, horned frog, comes from the horn-like protrusions on their upper eyelids. This protrusion is most pronounced on the Suriname horned frog, C. cornuta, but is also subtly evident on the other species. By far the most commonly encountered of the horned frogs is C. cranwelli, with brown, green and albino individuals being bred in large numbers. Brown phase Pac-man frogs are mocha colored with spots and blotches of yellow, tan, or dark brown to nearly black. Green phase Pac-man frogs are a lime green color with spots and broken stripes of brown. Albinos are pale to mustard yellow with spots and broken stripes of rose to deep red. Ornate Pac-man frogs are uniformly patterned with yellow, rust, brown and red spotting and blotches on an olive green base. Fantasy frogs are a hybrid cross of the C. cranwelli and C. ornata, and are predominantly lime green with yellow, tan, and rust to brown spotting and striping. Their skin is noticeably smoother and they tend to be slightly smaller than either of the species from which they were derived. The Suriname horned frog’s most identifying feature is its pronounced supraocular protrusions or horns. They are essentially cream, grey, tan or green with a pale, patternless snout, and maze-like brown, chocolate or black patterning on the dorsum. They are also flanked with broad yellow stripes and raised black spots.
All horned frogs have enormous mouths and are round and squat with foreshortened limbs. The largest of the group, C. cornuta can reach up to 8 inches in diameter. C. cranwelli and C. ornata can reach up to 6 inches in diameter. Fantasy frogs are slightly smaller with 4 inches being about full-size. All of them are nearly circular and occasionally wider than they are long. All of the species are sexually dimorphic with the females being nearly twice as large as the males. Lifespans of 10 years or more are not uncommon for these frogs, with ornates sometimes reaching more than 15 years of age.
Horned frogs are all native to South America. C. cranwelli are native to Central and Northern Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. C. ornata are native to Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. C. cornuta are native to southern Venezuela, northern Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. All of the species are fossorial and sedentary, preferring to remain partially buried waiting in ambush for potential prey. Within their respective ranges, horned frogs generally inhabit virtually anywhere with desirable substrate, characterized by moist, permeable soils with ample camouflage such as leaf litter, grasses, shrubs and mosses. Due to their different ranges, horned frogs due have somewhat different temperature and humidity requirements. C. cornuta, being the northern most species, is the most tropical and therefore requires higher temperatures and humidity. C. ornata, with the southern most range, is the most cold tolerant (although this is relative; in this case, meaning tolerant of temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit).
Horned frogs are fairly sedentary creatures—preferring to lay still and ambush prey, so they do not require large enclosures in which to move about. A 5-gallon aquarium is plenty for all but the largest of horned frogs. Horned frogs are fossorial, and as such, should be provided with substrate that allows this behavior. A mixture of soil, peat, mulch, bark, sand, and loam should be used to provide a substrate that is 1-2 inches deep. Pieces of foam with portions cut out of them in the size and shape of the frog can also be used with great efficiency. Foam has the added benefit of being very easy to clean.
Due to the volume of food that they ingest, horned frogs are also relatively messy. Care should be taken to clean the enclosure frequently so as to avoid the build up of ammonia. A water bowl large enough for the frog to soak in should be provided. The water should be deep enough for the frog to submerge but not be able to float. A smaller water bowl is better because it will need to be cleaned frequently, if not daily. Do keep in mind the size of the frog because it will displace a certain volume of water when using the bowl. For all but the Suriname horned frogs, ambient household temperatures are usually sufficient. In the case of Suriname horned frogs additional heating may be required. This can be accomplished by heating a water portion of the habitat, the use of an undertank heating pad or through the use of a basking light. By far the easiest of these is the undertank heating pad as it is the most localized and least intrusive heating element. The use of a basking light or a submersible heater necessitates a larger enclosure so as to maintain a good thermal gradient. If a submersible heater is used, the heater should be hidden or encased in such a way that the frog can not rest upon it and get burned. This can be accomplished by burying the heater in the substrate, below or behind filtration equipment or by encapsulating it inside a larger piece of PVC pipe that has holes drilled in it and a cap over the open end. Ideally, a Suriname horned frog’s habitat will maintain temperatures in the 75-80 degree Fahrenheit range with humidity levels of 70-80%. In a heated enclosed terrarium (one partially covered in glass) if adequate water area is provided, humidity levels are fairly easily maintained.
Pac-man frogs, as the name implies will eat virtually anything that moves (including non-food items like leaves, sticks, gravel, fingers, etc. so be careful!) They will eat: earthworms, mealworms, superworms, wax worms, insects, spiders, crustaceans, fish, mice, rats, birds, frogs, lizards, and snakes. They will even attempt to eat things that are larger than they are, sometimes taking several days to complete the meal. This is not recommended however as it can cause health problems. All horned frogs are also highly prone to cannibalism.
Horned frogs are incredibly voracious eaters and will consume anything that moves. Subsequently, they are best housed singly. Also, because they do have teeth, they can inflict a nasty bite (see above about eating anything that moves). Be careful when cleaning or feeding—the lunge and bite of a horned frog can be startling and can result in frogs inadvertently being hurled across the room. If you need to handle your frog do so carefully and avoid approaching it from the front.